I love a good dog story and Alpha is not only a good dog story it is the first dog story. Alpha is all about establishing the archetype for man’s best friend.
There is nothing that will bring a tear to a dog lover’s eyes than seeing the first sit, fetch, petting, kiss, cuddle and stay happen. Alpha plays into all that canine nostalgia by sticking close to the heart of all dog stories: they are about a boy and a dog, or in this case, a cave boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a wolf (Chuck, a Czech Wolf Dog).
The two will bond and the time will come where the boy will protect the wolf and the wolf will protect the boy. To director Albert Hughes credit (taking a break from co-directing with twin brother Allen) there are no Lassie go get help moments.
Hughes has paid attention and has done his Jean Auel research. There are wooly mammoths and sabertooth tigers, and plenty of barren tundra and ice age terrain, but blissfully no dinosaurs or Raquel Welch in skimpy animal skins. It is all about keeping it believable and getting the relationship right.
There are some homages to 2001’s Dawn of Man prologue (monolith like stone markers are an obvious offender) particularly in the Music of the Spheres echoes on the score, but it sticks rather closely to the Clan of the Cave Bear model established by Michael Chapman.